Cambodia and the rise of a small power

For Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen, Prime Minister of Cambodia, timing is everything. Therefore, it was not surprising that the world’s longest-serving leader signalled recently that he would step down from politics. Unbelievable, right? He used to say he would remain in power until he was 90. If it had not come directly from him, nobody would have believed a word. His carefully calibrated decision comes at a critical time due to current domestic and external conditions and their likely long-term repercussions.

More importantly, it also demonstrates Hun Sen’s ability to weather all kinds of political headwinds coming his way. His staying power is exceptional due to his political instincts — what the Cambodians would describe as “Noyubuy…Ascha Nas!” And it is spreading outside the country.

When he was in Pursat last month, he was not coy but hinted strongly he would give up his premiership by stating that the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) is now well-prepared for new leadership. That also showed Hun Sen knows exactly what his country needs now, a younger generation of leaders who will take charge and move the country forward to compete with other Asean members. “We had better hand over to them and just stay behind them.”

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